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MWC: Alcatel takes Idol up a notch

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Alcatel has announced the new Idol 4 series of smartphones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Building on the success of its Idol 3, the Idol 4 and Idol 4S smartphones are claimed to “take everything up a notch” with a new Boom Key and an augmented multimedia experience.

“The Idol 4 series marks another milestone in Alcatel innovation,” said Dan Dery, Chief Marketing Officer at Alcatel. “The Boom Key boom-ifies everything, from the sound to photos to gaming. Something we’re really excited about, and something I’m eager to show my friends is that we’ve augmented Idol 4’s multimedia experience.  A screen that offers a stunning display from any angle, an all-in-one powerhouse audio ecosystem and a professional-caliber camera.”

Alcatel provided the following information:

Boom me up! The Boom Key Delivers Augmented Experience

Boom my camera: Instantly takes photos on standby mode pressing and holding the button puts the camera into burst mode to take photos in quick succession.

Boom my gallery: Artistically shuffles the photos in the gallery for instant sharing as a photo collage or a short slideshow.

Boom my videos: Generates immediate, surprising effects in existing videos, such as replaying the previous one second of the video three times, or changing the playback speed. When a user is recording a video, pressing the Boom Key will immediately broadcast the video live.

Boom my music: Conceived by Alcatel and creatively engineered by Waves, the audio experience is automatically optimized across all media with simply one touch. The bass, loudness and clarity of the sound is enhanced, enriching the whole user experience.

Boom my game: Asphalt fans will love how the Boom Key amps up their race by releasing the Nitro and boosting the car speed. It also boosts the audio experience by increasing the volume and adding spatial sound reproduction.

Boom my view: Creates a more intense 3D effect (parallax UI effect) for the launcher and a stunning, live weather display as part of the home-screen.

Augmented Multimedia: Amped-Up Display, Camera and Sound

The Idol 4, featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, and the Idol 4S, featuring the Snapdragon 652 processor, deliver advanced features and capabilities that allow consumers to experience console-quality 3D gaming, enhanced photography and videography, as well as home theater-quality audio.  These Qualcomm Technologies processors also features an X8 LTE modem and 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity which supports very fast download speeds. Additionally users will be able to enjoy all-day battery life.  Both smartphones  sport displays that provide superb readability even in bright sunlight and clear viewing from any angle using Qualcomm Technologies’ Assertive Display technology. The larger, 5.5-inch Idol 4S offers a 2K AMOLED display, which is super-responsive and low in power consumption.

“Both Snapdragon 617 and 652 processors take processing and power efficiency to new heights and offer advanced features that will enable the great user experiences for Alcatel consumers,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies.  “We are pleased to have worked with Alcatel on the development of their new Idol 4 and Idol 4S series, which will deliver exceptional features.”

Idol 4 series comes with professional-quality cameras offering ultrafast auto-focus (0.1-0.3 seconds), as well as 360-degree photos and selfies. The smartphones also produce crystal-clear shots even in the dark.

For a superior and powerful audio experience, Alcatel teamed up with two well-known audio brands, JBL and Waves.

Other Idol 4 series audio features include two powerful 3.6 watt speakers, Hi-Fi surround-sound for the headset, and optimization of audio presets both automatically and manually, giving users a powerhouse sound. The J22 JBL headphones employ high-performance drivers and a high quality microphone is included to enable the end-user to enjoy on-the-go phone conversations.

The pre-loaded Onetouch Music app offers users an all-in-one music ecosystem, which lets them discover new music, mix online or local tracks, remix, as well as play and browse featured playlists.

Augumented Reversibility: Up, Down and All Around

IDOL 4 and IDOL 4S are reversible in three ways. The interface rights itself no matter if the users picks it up right side up or upside down. In addition, it is reversible left to right: stereo sound is always on the correct side, even when the phone is flipped. And the strategically placed speaker grille ensures that sound is unobstructed, whether the phone is facing up or turned over.

Augumented Reality: Part of the Idol 4 Experience

Last but not least: The Idol 4S’s innovative packaging design transforms into a pair of virtual reality goggles which, when combined with the smartphone, becomes the portal for users to enter the world of immersive 360-degree viewing and gaming. Virtual reality content such as videos and games can be downloaded onto the device from the Onetouch VR Store, a built-in app to easily access saved virtual reality content or streamed in realtime via LittlStar.

Finely Crafted Design

Idol 4 and Idol 4S will be offered with four different metal frames: Gold, Dark Gray, Rose Gold and Metal Silver. The front glass touch panel and glass back cover give the phones a premium look and feel. The Idol 4 series’ slimness (6.9 mm), metal frame and in-mold spin-effect texture add to its finely crafted, luxurious design.

 

 

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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